The need for speed..Trump, Murphy and co revving up
Four snooker stars were at Silverstone last week to experience the thrill of driving single-seater cars around the famous track.
Judd Trump, Shaun Murphy, Michael Holt and Kyren Wilson took their place behind the wheel of the cars billed as the closest thing to Formula 1 – capable of accelerating from 0 to 60mph in four seconds, with a top speed of 140mph. This was no glorified Go-Kart race.
The day starts with a behind-the-scenes tour of Silverstone, taking in the trophy room, media centre and even Bernie Ecclestone’s office, as well as a pedestrian lap on the main race track in a mini-bus.
Wilson – a late replacement for the usually-reliable Neil Robertson who had controversially pulled out at late notice – arrives with his dad who reveals he recently won a similar race at the Rockingham circuit (apropos of nothing he is walking on crutches). Holt divulges that he also comes from rich motoring stock as his dad is a former sidecar racer. Next to arrive is Murphy, a James Bond enthusiast who used to own an Aston Martin and (possibly) drive it through narrow cobbled streets around Europe chasing KGB agents. Ferrari-fiend Trump, now the driver of a much more sensible Porsche Cayenne jeep, is last to turn up.
After a cracking lunch spread laid on by the extremely accommodating Silverstone team, it’s time for the safety and technical briefing, led by chief instructor Steve Deeks. Steve is a former professional racer who now prefers flying helicopters. “You quite like adrenaline then?” asked Murphy. “Actually,” replies Steve, “I’ve always wanted to be a snooker player.”
Our quartet listens intently as the instruction covers racing lines, clipping points, transferring horse-power and maneuvering. “What happens if you go off the track and damage the car?” asks Wilson. Steve says: “Just don’t do that. These cars cost a fortune and the rule is that if you bend it, you mend it. And don’t get your front wheels trapped underneath another car. That can make it flip over.” World Snooker’s rep nervously checks the wording on the indemnity form which all four players have, thankfully, signed.
Without delay it’s on with the helmets, gloves and boiler suits and time to get strapped into the cars. The players are tense and excited in equal measure as they slot in behind the steering wheels, their cars adorned with decals: Magician, Warrior, Hitman, Ace.
All four cars race together and the target is to score the fastest lap time. But the first task is getting out of the pit lane, through the gears and on to the track. This proves harder than expected for Murphy, who stalls a few times, takes a couple of bunny hops and gives anyone in his eyeline a look which says “whose ******* idea was this anyway?” But then a burst of revs and he’s off and running, swiftly followed onto the circuit by the other three.
Slow and steady is Murphy’s approach, slower than Lewis Hamilton and possibly even Anthony Hamilton. After some ribbing from Joe Perry, he later jokes on twitter that he was overtaken by a milk float. After 15 minutes of racing, his best lap is 98 seconds, over 30 seconds behind the other three. However he gets the hang of it in the second session and is chuffed to describe himself as the most improved driver having finished with a best time of 69.9 seconds.
Wilson and Holt are closely matched with a similar racing style. Fearless Wilson, who did a parachute jump from 13,000 feet on his 18th birthday, has the edge and ends up with the best time of 61.4 seconds, with Holt clocking 64.5.
Trump’s driving is comparable to his snooker: fast and flamboyant with the occasional meltdown. Insisting he hasn’t driven a manual car for years, he struggles with the gear changes and can be heard grinding and crunching on the far side of the track, as well as spinning into the gravel three times. But he manages a few clear laps and records 64.1 seconds, edging ahead of Holt into second.
The relief is palpable as they all climb on to level ground, no damage done to limb or machinery. Holt is gutted not to win but keeps saying “fully charged” and wants to know when the next one will be. Wilson is full of the casual confidence of youth as he dons the laurel wreath, sprays someone’s expensive jacket with champagne (cheers) and departs to plan his continued charge up the world ranking list. Trump saunters off to the Cayenne to tackle a local car park known as the M1. Cameras are packed away and chocolate brownies eaten. And the snooker track day is over…until next year?